The Boston Red Sox have emphasized the cultivation of their farm system over the past two decades, which has led to the maturation of a number of valuable major league players. In recent years, the team increasingly relied more on obtaining veteran players through trades and free agency; causing the value of their player development program to slip a little. However, the consensus seems to be that now in year three of general manager Ben Cherington’s reign, the quality of their minor leagues has never been better. In addition to big bonus draftees, the organization also has young players making their mark despite a lack of signing bonus pedigree. This includes catcher Tim Roberson, who was signed as a free agent in 2011 for organizational depth, but has proved his talent is worth watching since then.
The 23-year-old Roberson starred for the Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles, splitting his time at catcher and third base. He finished his collegiate career with a .321 batting average and 40 home runs, along with a slew of other statistics that up him at or near the top of the school’s all-time records.
A DUI arrest left a major blemish on his senior year, but he accepted the consequences and moved on. While his name wasn’t called in the 2011 MLB Draft, he latched on with the Red Sox, who liked his hitting ability and intriguing versatility in the field.
Roberson has played sparingly in his first two-plus seasons as a minor leaguer but has done well when given an opportunity.
He played his first two years with the short-season Lowell Spinners, hitting .250 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 43 total games.
He has appeared in a total of 26 games in 2013, splitting his time between Single-A Greenville and High-A Salem, hitting a combined .307 with two home runs and 23 RBI. Because Boston’s top catching prospect, Blake Swihart, is with Salem, Roberson has seen the bulk of his playing time at DH.
Despite his inconsistent opportunities behind the plate, Roberson has shown a surprisingly effective arm, throwing out 15 of 32 runners since the start of last season.
There may be other prospects in Boston’s system with gaudier numbers and higher expectations, but Roberson is holding his own. Without the benefit of consistent playing time, it will be difficult for him to progress. However, he has already shown a knack for producing when given the opportunity, so it may just be a matter of waiting for his opening.
I was able to connect with Roberson this past offseason and ask him some questions about his baseball career. Keep reading to find out what he had to say.
Tim Roberson Interview:
Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up was Albert Pujols. Growing up my favorite number was five and he also wore the same number. Also, I loved how he approached the game and his approach at the plate. He drove the ball to all fields and was feared when he stepped into the box.
What was your college experience like at FGCU?: My college experience at FGCU was nothing less than great. I got to mature as a person on and off the field. When I first got to FGCU I was a little immature as a player and had a lot to learn. The things I learned on the field helped me to become into a better player.
Our assistant coach Rusty McKee helped me to become into a better hitter at the plate, which led me to have a lot of success hitting at the college level. I was able to do some pretty cool things as a player that I will never forget. While I was there I got to play for some good coaches, and the players I played with were good as well and will be lifelong friends of mine. I got to catch Chris Sale, a big leaguer with the White Sox who was in the Cy Young hunt this past year, which was pretty neat to see. Got to play against a lot of big time college programs and ended up winning three conference championships in the four years I was there.
What were your expectations going into the 2011 MLB Draft?: I really had no expectations on the draft. I was really just focused on the college season ahead of me and trying to help my college team win games. My thought was if it happened, it happened.
What do you think you have improved on most since being signed?: The thing I have most improved on since being signed is being behind the plate. I have gotten more comfortable behind the plate since being with the Sox. The minor league catching coordinator Eppy (Chad Epperson) has helped me so much with being behind the plate, which has allowed me to be more relaxed back there. There is still a lot of work left to do to get to where I want to be but it’s coming along nicely.
What is one thing you would change about your professional career if you could go back in time?: There is nothing I would want to change with my experience playing pro ball. It has been a great experience; I have gotten to play for some really good coaches. We have really good coordinators, and also have played with some really good guys that have made the experience even better. Also, playing for a first class organization like the Red Sox has made it great as well.
What is the most difficult part of calling a game as a catcher?: I would just say knowing the hitter in the box and knowing your own pitchers’ strengths. My pitching coach the last two years, and former big leaguer, Paul Abbott has really helped me with this. Just talking and picking his brain helped me a lot, even if it was a game I wasn’t playing and in the dugout, and we would talk about certain situations and how to go about attacking that hitter.
If you could have dinner with one baseball player from the present or past, who would that be and why?: I would have to say Albert Pujols just because he’s always been my favorite player and I would love to just sit and pick his brain about hitting. I think I could learn a lot over just a dinner to listen to one of the best hitters in the game.